iPads in the Classroom
The introduction of the iPad, with its easy to manipulate touch screen technology, has allowed even very young children to take advantage of a computer. Its portable format and fast load-up time has made it possible for them to be used easily in the classroom.
The iPad in the classroom brings education to life. Children have endless access to valuable information such as a dictionary and thesaurus, which previously were only available in printed format. Interactive technology makes learning more engaging and memorable. Tools such as audio and video recorders can change the way that learning takes place and homework is completed. So what if all children in a school were given an iPad to use in class and take home with them?
Anne Laure Bazin (Assistant Head Teacher at Mounts Bay Academy in Cornwall) works in a school where every child, teacher and teaching assistant is given a free iPad to use in and out of lessons. For her, the main advantage of everyone having an iPad has been the improvement in communication. Documents can be emailed straight over to colleagues during a meeting. Children submit their homework by email, or through the school’s virtual learning environment. Teachers now take the register using their iPad, which means that there is a centralised record of which children are in school, and which classroom they are in, that every teacher has access to.
The use of iPads has encouraged greater sharing of resources among teachers. All communication with parents is now done by email. Working as a group in class is much easier as children can share documents. Children who previously did not have access to the internet at home are given the same opportunities as their peers. The whole class can look at one child’s work by attaching the iPad to the interactive whiteboard. If a child has forgotten their textbook, the teacher can take a photograph of the relevant page and send it to the student in class.
Anne Laure says “The pupils learn more efficiently with the iPad as they get instant feedback. In the past, they would do their homework and then submit it and a few days later I would give it back and we would go over it. This time delay means that they have often forgotten what they have written or why they chose to write it like that. With the iPad they can receive immediate feedback from interactive tools and quizzes which means they find out straight away if they have got something right. Using online dictionaries means they are able to check their work before they submit it. It doesn’t do the work for them, it helps them to work it out for themselves.”
Anne Laure teaches French and access to the cultural resources available on the internet enriches her lessons and puts the work into context. There are free interactive resources on the internet talking about holidays and special cultural events. A-level students can access French newspapers and videos, giving them ready access to material in the target language.
Jen Foster teaches English at Enfield County School in North London. In her school, all the teachers are provided with a laptop but only a select few have been given iPads. She does not believe that all the children in the school should be given iPads, “All the teachers should be given one but not the students. I just can’t see how it would work with the kids. So much hardware goes missing in schools as it is. Who would maintain them? Who would update them?”
Breakage and loss is a problem at Mounts Bay Academy. In a class of 25, there are always a handful of the children who don’t have their iPads with them, either because they are being repaired, have been forgotten or they are waiting for a replacement. Mount Bay has a technical team on site who maintain the iPads and sort out any problems. There are weekly clinics that students can go to when they have technical problems with their iPad. They are insured against loss or damage, but the students have to pay £50 excess for any repairs or a replacement.
While the use of the iPad in schools has revolutionised the way children are taught, it hasn’t completely replaced more traditional methods of teaching. Worksheets are still used in class as some children prefer the contact with paper. The children all have a textbook and exercise books. In Anne Laure’s school, parents were concerned that the iPads would replace exercise books and children would lose handwriting skills. Anne Laure says, “The iPad is an extra, it does not replace printed materials. The teachers are not ready to let go of the traditional style of teaching. We have welcomed the iPads in so much as they help communication and widen the resources available but we are not ready to let go of paper yet. The children themselves still value their exercise books and rely on them for revision.”
In Enfield County School, teachers have embraced technology for education. The children may not have iPads, but Jen has a set of netbooks available that children can use during class. As an English teacher, she can bring pages of the books they are studying up on the interactive whiteboard, highlight text and make notes on the page, to turn the book into a working document. iBooks allows students to annotate their books, search the whole book for use of a phrase and find an instant definition of any word. Jen says, “I don’t see this sort of technology as a threat to the ‘real book’. People will always read printed books, this just allows people greater flexibility which has definitely changed the way I teach.”
Jen uses the camera from her iPad as a visualiser. This allows her to take a picture of the work in a pupil’s book and transmit it onto the interactive whiteboard. This sort of technology has been available in education for some time, but it is expensive and cumbersome.
Uses of the iPad in education
Jen and Anne Laure have shared some of their tips for using iPads and technology in and out of lessons:
The iPad is great for surfing the web and researching topics in or out of the classroom.
Video creation and editing is simple on the iPad. This can be a great group activity to encourage collaboration. Unfortunately Flash is not supported on the iPad, so watching videos (except on YouTube) is not always possible. Videos [LINK] can be watched on the interactive whiteboard if required.
Taking notes during class
The iPad is portable and easy to carry around with books making it the ideal tool to take notes and store all of a teacher’s lecture material.
Live debates and discussion forums
Setting a discussion topic for homework is ideal for encouraging participation from the more nervous members of the class. Students can be encouraged to take part in a live debate for their evening homework using the school virtual learning environment and can be marked on their level of engagement and responses.
There are several excellent mind mapping apps on the iPad which makes revision enjoyable and effective.
The whole class contributing to a blog can be a rewarding experience which allows the students to get their first taste of getting published on the web.
The iPad has changed art lessons for good – there are so many fantastic art apps which allow drawing and painting.
It’s easy and rewarding to make music on the iPad, using a variety of different instruments.
Talking to students from abroad
Particularly useful for language lessons: Skype can be set up so that video conferences can be arranged with schools in other countries. Video penpals allow students from different countries to talk, practise their language skills and share their cultural differences.
Technology has allowed the children who are more nervous in class the opportunity to have a voice: Jen sets up evening discussions on topics that the children have to participate in for homework and Anne Laure gets her pupils to record themselves speaking French so she can check pronunciation. This allows teachers to get to know the children who previously were too embarrassed to speak in class and this in turn allows them to build their confidence gradually.
For Anne Laure, the novelty of the iPad in the classroom will never wear off. Whether all schools will go down the same route as Mounts Bay Academy remains to be seen, but with technology changing so quickly it is certain that the opportunities for education are enormous. Teachers who embrace technology can certainly benefit by being able to offer more engaging lessons to their technology-savvy students.
BBC Active sells licences to the BBC’s vast range of educational television programmes to use in learning environments. Video allows students to put real life events in context and learn in a more visual and memorable way.